Ahhhh, the summer blockbuster season. There is nothing more heartening to a comic culture geek than knowing that with the end of the academic year comes a glut of interpretations of our favorite graphic worlds. It’s the time when the dark, frigid, Oscar-baiting movies of the winter fade away and make room for lighter, warmer, explosion filled fare.
It is also my single most hated time to try and see anything that I might enjoy.
I’m sure you have shared the experience of going on the opening weekend of a much-anticipated film to find the audience filled with the soft glow of cellphones well after the lights go down. Other patrons sit around you, speaking to their seatmates in conversational tones and volumes best saved for post-cinema lobby chats. Several rows seem to have bladders the size of acorns as they cannot make it through 120 minutes without leaving to go to bathroom, seemingly uncaring about what they may miss onscreen. And as your ire slowly rises, you wonder if it was truly worth it to spend the $15 just to see something in a theater.
I feel for you.
The exercise of attending a movie has changed in the last decade or two. My closest AMC has reclining pleather seats that seem plucked out of a Jordan’s Furniture warehouse. I assume that this is so I have optimum comfort as I sip the gin and tonic I’ve procured from the full bar out front. Lying supine certainly doesn’t help me with my Frito pie, pizza, or chicken tenders and fries entree. But it does make me wonder why they are trying so hard to replicate my living room when I willingly left that place to partake of their giant screen, popcorn, and surround sound.
What happened to the movie theater experience that mimicked going to see a stage performance? Where we all agreed that once the lights went down, our eyes and attention went to the screen in front and not in our laps? This phenomenon is not limited to the big budget action movies; nearly all films suffer from the same disengaged audience. The fact that AMC even BRIEFLY considered allowing for texting inside of a theater felt like the end of days for the 2 hour escapism from real life that seeing a movie in theaters should offer you.
Ticket sales have been on the decline and theater chains have been tossing ideas out left and right to try and lure moviegoers back into the experience. While I am occasionally disturbed by their innovation (the only thing I want to feel is a sticky floor underneath my sneakers, and the only scent should be melted butter and freshly popped kernels) I know that they are simply fighting to stay alive as home viewership rises exponentially.
My one saving grace, my quiet island in the bay of distraction, is the glorious but elusive screening pass. Continue reading “Quiet Down Front: Moviegoer Madness and the Glory of Screeners”